Is Tony Parker the Man?

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One of the trends of this postseason is a new found suggestion that Tony Parker is the lead dog in San Antonio. In one article, Parker is referred to as a superstar. I want to take a minute to respond to this perspective.

To start, Tony Parker has elevated his game this season. He’s clearly entered into a new phase of dominance, and the superstar label does not seem overblown. In my estimation, he is the 4th best guard in the league, trailing Bryant, Wade and Paul. That’s pretty good company. It’s worth noting that Parker is near his prime, but may not have hit his ceiling. If he were to develop a reliable 3 point shot, for example, he’d average 25 points per game.  And I’m not convinced he’s hit his ceiling as a distributor, either. He might have more point guard lurking within that is still waiting for discovery. He’s only 26. Let’s wait a couple years before pronouncing his final arrival as a basketball player.

It’s hard to call Tony Parker a top 4 guard, but not because Parker hasn’t earned that recognition. It’s difficult because I  used to slot Manu Ginobili into that position. Ginobili, then, is the 5th best guard on the planet. Or something like that. But Ginobili will be 32 in July and it’s reasonable to expect that Tony Parker has finally surpassed him in the superstar rankings. I trust our readers understand this is not meant as disrespect toward Manu Ginobili. It’s not. He’s still a stud.

It’s been a difficult season for San Antonio Spurs fans because of the injuries to Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan. But, in a sense, those injuries have forced Parker to elevate his game, and, if one is inclined to look for such things, that can be taken as a silver lining. Whatever the case, Parker is improved and every other team in the league must rethink their defensive game plan from here out.  It’s possible that Parker, in a nice switch, will actually elevate Duncan’s play next season—those familiar double teams might not come as often as teams focus their attention on Parker. Parker’s consistently shown an ability to beat good teams. Ask the Mavericks. He can go in front, asking his teammates to follow his assault.

Having said this, I’m not yet willing to consign Tim Duncan to the role of second fiddle. He’s injured. Prior to his quad injury, Duncan was having one of his best seasons. His numbers were on par with his MVP campaigns in all categories but points. As a post passer, Duncan has rarely played better. He was, I think, the second best big in the league this season, coming up short to Dwight Howard.  If he were fully healthy, this conversation would seem silly.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume Tim Duncan does start to slide.  What I want to say is simply this: don’t panic. The Spurs will be fine. Tony Parker is a superstar, and Tim Duncan is not a bad second option. The Spurs won 54 games this season at about 70% of their optimum strength.  In light of this, let’s make a second assumption, for the sake of argument. What do the Spurs look like if Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan return to near full strength next season. 58 wins? Championship in the cross-hairs? I think so.

A week ago, the mood all around SpursNation was that the 2009 season was a loss. But that was all relative to expectation. For most fan bases, 54 regular season wins and a chance to make real noise in the playoffs is a dream scenario. In Denver, 54 wins is a banner season. In San Antonio, it’s all so humdrum, especially when poisoned by the killjoy of injury. But since I’m talking about expectations, I’d like to say we should raise ours. Tony Parker has taught us this.

Let’s not play the role of the annoying preseason prognosticator whose chief  joy is pronouncing the annual (premature) death of the Spurs. You know, those sages of decline whom we dismiss with a derisive glance.  We should expect the Spurs to march into Dallas tonight and put game 1 to rights. Tony Parker’s arrival at super-stardom is just a reminder that we’ve plenty more years to cheer a championship squad. Now that Tony Parker is recognized as a superstar, some things do set up differently for the Spurs. But more than anything, it’s the same old story you’ve grown to love.

  • Jordan

    Nice post, but, uh, I’m pretty sure Deron Williams and Brandon Roy are better than Parker. More complete games. If Parker had a three, I might take him, but you can’t tell me that Parker is better than Roy or Williams. Williams is a better shooter and passer, and Roy just has a beautiful all around, cerebral game.

    So, Manu can’t be considered top five…maybe not even top ten. Andre Igoudala, Joe Johnson and Chauncey Billups are, if not better than Manu, right there.

    And if Manu has slipped at all (he really hasn’t played Manu-esque going on a season and a half now) there’s Steve Nash, Devin Harris, Ray Allen, Vince Carter, Rajon Rondo, Mo Williams (who’s also 26) and, as much as I don’t want to say this, you can’t discount Tracy McGrady either. Saying T-Mac is injury prone as a reason for him not being as good would be a hypocritical statement considering Manu’s history.

  • SpurredOn

    54 wins was good for second best record in the West (again) while playing in the toughest division in the league. Doing so at 70% optimum strength, their ability is underappreciated by those annoying prognosticators you mention (step to the front of the line, Jon Barry).

    Of note for tonight: Joey Crawford returns to the scene of the crimes: the infamous 2007 ejection, and game 3 at Dallas (oh the irony Mr. Stern) from 2006. Yes, Joey reffed the 24 FT for Dirk and fouled out Duncan. I believe that is where TD’s problems with Crawford began (mine as well). The question becomes, will tonight’s game be about the players or one official’s ego?

  • Nixiack

    Oh, Joey’s reffing. Great. Well maybe it’s good that the game is on NBA TV because my neighbors won’t be hearing me scream at the top of my lungs at ol’ baldy. Joey Crawford is the worst thing that happens to the Spurs, and it’s very likely that he does hold a grudge against them and Duncan in particular, based off the history of previous contests. Just the past 2 years he’s done some bang-up officiating. Heck just take the last 2 playoff games :

    SA vs. NO, Game 5. SA gets out to a lead, free-throw parade for the NOOCH, topped off with C. Paul having an absolute flop-fest field day. End of game controversial call that could have gone either way goes NO’s way, forcing a Game 7 if SA wins series.

    SA vs. LA, Game 4. We all know this one….Barry gets the ball, Fisher (of all people) clearly fouls him by jumping straight into him, no foul is called, SA loses because Barry has to throw up a prayer at the buzzer. If those FT’s go for a 3 pointer, Spurs win by 1.

    Without a Game 7 and the debacle that followed it with travel, the Spurs would have been fresher and taken Game 1 from LA. Given the really tight contest in Game 4, should Barry sink those FT’s, boom SA is up 3-1, and probably takes the series in 6. Whole new season to look at there. Why does the NBA continue to allow this travesty? Isn’t even just the last 2 years enough to warrant saying “no more?”

  • spurs in six

    WTF? Joey Crawford are the NBA Honchos serious. There are 8 different series you could assign that A-Hole to and they chose this one. Let’s see, Parker gets knocked to the floor no call, Dirk steps on Duncan’s foot whistle and sixth foul. I’m already sick and the game doesn’t start for five more hrs.

  • rou

    Well it should be obvious the NBA is conspiring against the Spurs. They would have won 8 in a row by now if were not for the crooked refs.

  • Nixiack

    Heh, no …. in 2006 Ginobili did commit a very boneheaded foul on Dirk, if he lets him go we probably sink some FT’s and win. I seriously doubt 2006 SA would have folded to the Heat like 2006 Mavs.

    2004 we were subject to .4, but we did have another game to play and could have pulled it out but didn’t. No refs issue there.

    2000-2002, LA was just better.

    There’s just one ref, he’s not crooked, just a ol’ fart that flat out hates SA. Wouldn’t matter if he was anything other than …. a ref. A.K.A. the one person other than Stern himself who can alter and flat out change a season for a sports team. And I can’t think of another sport where ref’s have that much power, that much twists in the rulebook to say “nope, sorry we can’t review, now get out of my face”, and that much …. good ol’ boy networking than the NBA. The NBA is a beautiful representation of one of the best sports in the world, but it will remain tarnished and 2nd rate as long as the overall officiating base is not cleaned up, and soon.

  • SpurredOn

    Rou,

    No conspiracy, just a mixture of incompetence (a few refs, like Salvatore), inconsitency (most refs, such as Bevetta) and bias against certain teams/players (a few older guys, led by Crawford). It’s unfortunate. The refs in the ’80s who have since retired were much more consistent and less willing to make a game about their ego. That makes for a better product and more respectful relationship between players/coaches and referees.

    Assuming ’07 goes the same, sure the 2006 Spurs would’ve been champs and had 3 in a row. Last year’s missed foul on Brent only means there would have been a WCF gm 6. If the Spurs win that, I don’t see them winning game 7 in L.A. w/out a healthy Manu. Of course had Manu been even 80%, we’d have seen a toss up game 7 and could remember a great series instead of a bad call. Ultimately, it does a disservice to the team that gets screwed (woulda, coulda and wanting that extra game to see IF they could win) and the winning team (giving the apperance that they would not have won w/out help when it may have only extended the series by one game). Players and fans deserve better.

  • BC

    In watching the post-practice interviews with the team on http://www.spurs.com it was really great to hear Tony Parker say “This is still Timmy’s team.” That kind of humility and understanding that his time will come, when the team is his (Tony’s Team) puts Parker in a level of class that most NBA players will never reach. He is showing his maturity, his understanding of the game, and he is going to win an MVP trophy in the next 3 years guaranteed.

  • Jim

    Hey BC, don’t bet your house on that MVP trophy for Parker. You’re kind of forgetting about that 24 yr LBJ guy

  • Brian Tung

    Lakers fan here. One day I hope to post regularly enough that it won’t be necessary to point that out.

    @Nixiack: Not that I don’t think that Fisher fouled Barry on that (although that’s far from the first time, or the last time, it’s not called), but your what-if scenario is a tad, umm, speculative. You want to assume that you take Game 5 from NO (assumption), so you don’t have to play Game 7 (assumption), so you win Game 1 from LA (assumption), and Games 2, 3, and 4 go *exactly* as they did before, *except* for the one call you want (I can’t even call this an assumption, it’s so wacky) and Barry sinks all three FTAs (well, OK). Isn’t that sort of the Revenge of the Butterfly Wing Chaos Conspiracy Theory?

    This is why all “travel in time” movies go to h3ll in a handbasket if they stay there for too long.

    @Jordan: Co-sign on Deron Williams, but Brandon Roy has yet to really prove himself. He’s obviously great, but I’m not sure I’d put him up with Parker yet. Iguodala, are you kidding me? This guy is so one-dimensional he vanishes when he turns to the side. Parker >> Iguodala every day of the week.

    You can quibble with the exact list of guards better than Parker, but it’s clear to me he’s up there around the five-to-seven-spot. And I agree with the premise that injuries to Manu and Duncan have made him step up his game. The real interesting thing is whether he’ll be able to maintain that next year if everyone’s healthy (or as healthy as they’re going to get), or if he relaxes a little. Even if he keeps up his work ethic, there’s bound to be a little settling as he tries to work Manu and Duncan back in; he can either dominate the games as he’s doing now, or get Manu and Duncan involved more, but pretty hard to do both at the same time.

  • Furious

    Brian, as I read it Jordan was saying that Iguodala is better than Manu, not Parker, which is a much more reasonable claim. Parker is definately top 5, but I’m afraid Manu will never be in that category again, and he would be lucky to make top ten again in his career.

  • Nixiack

    Brian-

    Pleasure to meet fans of another fan base, even if it’s the Lakers :p But seriously, it’s good to see other fans checking out what people say and not be so one-sided about thier team, etc.

    About the speculation, that’s just what it is. We can play “what-if’s” all day, but I distinctly remember that for something like a week (even after Game 6 and going to Game 7) all the media was ignited because of some things that happened in that Game 5. Crawford clearly got in the heads of the Spurs, having heated on-court arguments with Pop, as well as 1/2 the Spurs. C. Paul is a flopper (I can’t defend Ginobili, but Paul is equally as bad….he’s just seen as some “savior”) and was doing his best that game, getting darn near every call. Remove Crawford from that game, and the Spurs would have won — they were on thier way to winning before all that crap happened with Crawford.

    Seeing that during that time the Home team won every game (The Spurs finally broke that in Game 7) then it’s very probable that the Spurs win Game 6. Your Lakers came out *really* flat in Game 1, and without that craptastic turnaround having to play basically a back-to-back with flight issues the Spurs would have been fresher and would have held them off — Lakers won by something like 3? So the 3-1 lead is a strong possibility. Mostly it was just to point out that one ref’s vendetta (this one proven) can greatly alter a series, even a season.

    As for the topic of this thread ( o.O ) … Parker is clearly in the top 5, if not the top 4 guards in the game. He can win a game by himself practically, carries his team when it’s injured and broken down, and even all of the pundits — who clearly don’t like the Spurs — say that he’s top 5 material.

    For the MVP, yeah don’t hold your breath. He’s stuck in the same type of void that several very deserving players in the 90’s were stuck in — the “OMG Mega Super Star Black Hole”. In the 90’s it was Jordan, in the 2000’s it’s Lebron James. And while the media still has the say in the MVP race (which is retarded) James will probably win multiple MVP’s. Even this year before a ballgame was played it was “Kobe/Bron-Bron” and ONLY when Wade played absolutely out of his mind and tallied up some of the most ridiculous #’s for a PG in a really long time he’s a distant…… 3rd. Plus, as long as Duncan plays Parker will never be considered MVP, because he ‘has Duncan’ when Bronny has “no one” and Kobe is “Kobe”. The MVP race itself is a joke, and something that the media invents to give themselves something to talk about. While I will not deny Lebron James is really good (to stave off the worshipers) I just find disgust at the voting. It’s like College FB, if you’re #1 in the beginning of the year and you win, well you’re it, no matter what anyone else does. Boo.

  • Furious

    Nixiack, you almost had a genuine comment until that last paragraph. Surely you don’t honestly believe MJ didn’t deserve his MVPs? Was that actually a joke? Also, Wade isn’t a point guard; you should probably learn what position somebody plays before suggesting they deserve the MVP. I mean, Tony Parker isn’t even the best Center in the league, how could he win MVP!
    The voting system might be flawed, but surely you can accept that Lebron deserves MVP this year, he has been an absolute beast all year. Only denying that he is good to stave off the worshipers (sic) is absurd.
    Out of interest, who do you think should be voting for the MVP?

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